Gamingsplosion: Taylor’s Inside Scoop on Video Games to Watch Out For

Last week, I attended E3, not better known as the Electronic Entertainment Expo. It was my first time, and while the consensus was that no One Thing stole the spotlight, there were still plenty of games to get all shook up about.

Beyond the retina-punishing garishness and the occasional short short, E3 was kind of like the Labyrinth. The one with the minotaur in Crete or whatever, not the one with David Bowie — but that one certainly has its place and time. In its outer circles you can while away your precious expo hours waiting in lines to play the lastest demo games; in its innermost circles — occupied by persistent, agile, or otherwise respectable members of the press, assorted PR weirdos, and various shiny Important People — you might be treated to exclusive hands-on gameplay, never-before-seen trailers or the ultimate prize: lackluster catering.

The week of E3 2011 has come and gone, and I lived to tell the tale. Wending my way toward those exclusive inner sanctums, plumbing the depths of the LA convention center’s gaming treasure trove one protein bar at a time, here’s what I liked best.

1. Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has been on my infinitely backlogged gaming to-do list since forever, and this year I’ll be able to get on board with a new installment of the expansive role-playing game from the get go. Set in a snowy ambiguously norse world populated by dragons, cat-people, elves and the like, this epic RPG is the one game I know I’m going to play for hours this year. [November 11, 2011]

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2. Bioshock: Infinite

Watching people walk out of the unreleased gameplay demo for Bioshock: Infinite, every single otherwise jaded member of the press in attendance was grinning from ear to ear. Infinite (which may or may not occur in the same world as the hellish underwater Art Deco world of Rapture but probably does) is set above water, in the also hellish aloft air city of Columbia in alt-1912. A commentary on jingoism and American exceptionalism rather than a lesson in Ayn Randness, the world of Infinite looks just as fully-realized and beautifully detailed as the games that preceded it.

If you’re worried that the less aquatic follow-up will lose its unsettling horror edge: um, you don’t need to be. In Infinite, you play as Booker DeWitt, a chatty chap protecting a young woman named Elizabeth (with a knack for disrupting the spacetime continuum) from her former captor, the Songbird. And the Songbird — a hulking metal avian horror that makes Big Daddies look like Little Daddies — isn’t fucking around. This thing is going to haunt my dreams until I can actually process it (via shotguns and actual gameplay, in all likliehood). The demo revealed Elizabeth’s special flavor of super cool strategic interdimensional travel, which reminded me a lot of the YA novel The Subtle Knife, which obviously should be made into its own game. [Earlyish 2012]

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3. Batman: Arkham City

I’ve always been a Marvel girl, but in the right hands, the Batman franchise has an epic ton of potential. The last two movies, directed by the awesome Christopher Nolan, proved Batman’s still got it, and the last game translated that degree of awesome to a living gaming world. I had a ton of playtime with the new game, Arkham City, and it really won me over. Arkham City sets you loose in Gotham, and the entire city is open for exploration. From the combat to gliding your way around Gotham’s eery rooftops, the game looks to capture the essence of a comic book world in a way few games ever have. Also, you can play as Catwoman, who is just as ass-kickingly agile and ruthless as you’d expect. [October 18, 2011]

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4. Minecraft coming to the Xbox 360

When I heard about this I seriously freaked out for 10 minutes and then maybe has to use my inhaler and do My Breathing. To me, Minecraft represents the infinitely imaginative essence of gaming in its purest, most potent form — but we’ve already heard me rave about that, haven’t we? It’s currently only playable on PC and Mac, but its new incarnations, coming to 360 (with Kinect integration!?) and Android, mean more Minecraft for more people. And that is a very good thing. [Fall 2011]

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5. Final Fantasy XIII-2

Square Enix, in an effort to make us forget the blasphemy that was FFXIII, is putting out a sequel set in the same world. If you’re familiar with the Final Fantasy series, you know that the games are only loosely connected; they don’t feature the same sets of spiky-haired heroes, the same style (the too-serious FFVIII vs. the classic cartoonish FFIX makes for a good example), or the same worlds. Even though I really enjoyed FFXIII (finally, after holding out hope for a good 10+ hours), I’m not particularly eager to relive its world. Presumably, FFXIII-2 is a do-over, building on the same story and stuffing it with more chocobos and more of the open world exploration that defines the series (for open world junkies like me, at least).

The demo I played maintained the same paradigm shifty combat system that made the predecessor surprisingly enjoyable (kind of like how trigonometry can be surprisingly enjoyable), with a real-time button mashy quicktime sequence here and there. If Square Enix can make good on its promise to fans of the series, we might forget all about FFXIII. But hey, I’ll be playing it either way. [Early 2012]

Honorable mentions:

Rocksmith: Plug in your actual instrument and learn to play guitar. How cool is that? I mean, I’m pretty convinced I don’t have a single musical bone in my body, but this is rad.

Bastion: This colorful, ultra-cute but challenging isometric action RPG will be coming to the XBL Arcade this summer, and it drummed up quite a bit of buzz last week. The story of your tiny, adorable character is narrated by a guy who sounds like John Marston, which is incongruously delightful, from my experience.

Mass Effect 3: I didn’t get a chance to see the new trailer or gameplay demo, but it’s Mass Effect…I mean, obviously it’s going to be gaymazing. And other kinds of ‘mazing.

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations: When Ubisoft revealed this one at their press conference last Tuesday, I was seriously on board — until I saw the gameplay. I’m looking forward to a new setting (Constantinople, among others) the game looks great…but also it looks exactly like Brotherhood. And Brotherhood, multiplayer aside, was the spitting image of Assassin’s Creed 2. I wish it looked more innovative, but why mess with a winning formula? Well, because eventually that gets old.

The women’s restrooms: No really, these were amazing. Depressing implications for the gaming industry aside, the women’s bathrooms were unoccupied, impeccably clean altars to gender imbalance. In a week fueled by protein bars and flickering wifi connections, I think I ascended to a transcendent, meditative plane more times than I’d care to admit, just breathing in the quiet and the vaguely floral, gently fragrant hand soap.

Taylor has written 136 articles for us.

42 Comments

  1. FFXIII-2: because FFX-2 was such a good idea. I doubt this one will be a hilarious parody, though.

    Mass Effect 3 is probably my most highly anticipated on this list. But then I love me some Mass Effect.

    • FFX-2 was a disaster. Which was double sad, because FFX was so rocking awesome! Now, what I would super like to see would be FFVII re-released (as a game, not a lame movie, please) with FFXIII level graphics. Midgar/Sephiroth/Everything would be famazing.

  2. No Zelda mention? 🙁

    I hope they get rid of the endurance bar before the release. That sounds awful. I always hated epona’s carrot meter. Being able to bounce off of, and climb up walls sounds very megaman/ninja gaiden and I like it. I’m still waiting for them to make a Zelda game where you can actually play as the princess herself. That would rule.

  3. I was bouncing off the walls while watching E3’s coverage online, in particular Microsoft’s Press Con, highlighting just how much butt Kinect is gonna kick this year! How it integrates with ME3 and Ghost Recon (a game I have NEVER liked but might try now) is simply epic. I’m beyond excited.

    And Arkham City as well…that we can play as Catwoman is the icing on the cake!

  4. i’m pumped for bioshock infinite. i never played the other two because being way underwater in video freaks me out irrationally, because i am a wimp. but if this one takes place in the air i am ALL ABOUT THAT.

  5. I can’t wait for Bioshock Infinite, I loved the first two games, and this one is sure to be as great. I did fangirl like crazy at the Gears of War 3 demo and that game needs to be in my hands now, like right now.

  6. BATTLEFIELD THREEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!! be still my FPS loving heart.

    Bioshock Infinite yes yes yes yes yes yes yes.. Although frustrating to see that it won best of show without really being able to see more game play.

    MW3… want to play.. because it is mw3.

  7. TAYLOR! HI! <3

    I love when you talk about video games. But next time you go to E3, I am stowing away with you.

    Mostly I can't wait for BioShock Infinite. It is the only thing my sad little heart is looking forward to. It looks so beautiful. I also am excited for ME3 even though I sometimes feel like I will never defeat Matriarch Benezia in the first game.

    I have not yet decided if Ezio is a better looking gray haired video game man than Solid Snake is, but I can't wait to hang out with him. I mean, when I eventually get around to finishing hanging out with young Ezio in Brotherhood. Someday…

  8. The new Ghost Recon looks amazing! inFAMOUS 2, Uncharted, a new Contra, Resident Evil, and a Zelda release on every Nintendo platform because of its 25th anniversary!!!!! I’m so beyond words! It’s like the gaming gods like torturing my family by making them think I’ve been kidnapped every time new games are released.
    Thank you gaming gods!!!

  9. skryim 🙂

    i loved oblivion so much, in high school i literally dated guys just so i could play it. and as soon as i could afford my own xbox, i realized i was only dating boys for video games. so yeah, pretty excited for skyrim.

  10. I kind of wish I were still a gamer. That would firstly mean I have lots of time to play games. These days it’s Fruit Ninja and puzzles on my Android phone.

    The sort of games I was into were not gamer-y games though. Best game of all time? Civilization 4. Man, Civ5 was such a disappointment. I may or may not had gotten addicted to World Of Warcraft and stopped several months ago. That game isn’t even that good, it’s just so big that you keep finding new things and don’t stop playing.

    • Uncharted 2 and Mass Effect 2 were quite good. I’d assume the same is in store for those upcoming titles. Definitely check out ME if you haven’t already. But yeah I feel your pain 🙁 I remember the days of original gaming. But I do admit, I’m excited for any sequels to Resident Evil, Silent Hill and the Shadow Of Colossus remake.

  11. Speaking of gender imbalance, maybe it says something that when I was giving press demos and interviews last year at E3, some of the press guys would automatically assume I was a booth babe (I will note that I was simply wearing a t-shirt over jeans and chucks) and ask to talk to a developer, at which point I would say, “Hi. I’m one of the producers.”

    That said, I am super super super excited about Uncharted 3 and Forza 4, both of which are out this year 😀

      • Sony has a holiday season game expo where they let people test the upcoming November releases (usually takes place in October) and everytime I go, I get asked by the developers/reps to play all the crap games like Madagascar and get looked at funny when I wanna test the new NHL games or any FPS. It’s especially bad when I go with any guys. I’m automatically assumed to be the non-gaming little girlfriend whose just there for support. I’m such a HUGE videogame fan, it feels so depressing!

    • Not primarily but I think it’s come down to that since consoles kick PCs ass when it comes to game sales. Things that aren’t XBOX360 exclusives usually go to PC as well, like Bioshock Infinite, F.E.A.R, COD: Modern Warfare etc.

  12. I’m gonna be super geeky and say that I loved FFXIII but I’m really horrified by the idea of FFXIII-2 :S Mostly because it’s going to (probably) involve the weakening of Lightning’s character in order to make her more “girly”. From what I got from the E3 demo, Serah is the playable character at first and Lightning is MIA at the beginning of the game. Anyone else hoping Lightning magically hooks up with Fang somehow? 😛

    I too will add myself to the list gay ladies waiting for Mass Effect 3!

    • YES. Lightning x Fang forever. Haven’t they said that XIII-2 is going to be darker in tone than XIII?

      Really, the homogayness between Fang and Vanille was the main thing that kept me playing, although the game really wasn’t that bad overall – just a little too over the top, a little too senseless at times for me.

      • W00t! I was not the only one feeling the Gabrielle/Xena chemistry going on between FangxVanille! But really? FangxLightning makes so much more sense. They’re clearly foils of each other and the amount of power each of them have… mmmph! Sooo hot.

        But given the amount of money lost by Square Enix in the last quarter, I sincerely doubt they’d push a gay storyline, either for Light or for Fang (or Vanille for that matter). It’s like movies now, no one wants to gamble on their investment and most investors bet that the ‘general’ videogame audience (aka boys/men) won’t buy a game with lesbians in it. The real real kind. Not like the TRLW kind.

  13. Speaking of Elder Scrolls, I just might have to go back and finish Morrowind and Oblivion at some point. I cant help if I get “sidetracked” easily, and by sidetracked I mean lost.

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